15 Retro Holiday Decorations from Your Grandparents’ House That Are Cool Again

published Nov 21, 2020
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image

Christmas at my grandparents’ houses always felt like a Hallmark movie but in the best way possible. Chestnuts were roasting over an open fire, and hot chocolate was always simmering on the stove. Kitschy reindeer pranced on tabletops, and ceramic Santas grinned ear to ear from their posts on fireplace mantels.

I don’t know about you, but visiting my grandparents was always one of the highlights of the holiday season and not just because my grandpa snuck me extra chocolates when my parents weren’t looking. Their home was cozy, festive, and really just the epitome of wintry, holiday decor goals. This year, I’m looking forward to bringing some of that retro cheer into my own apartment, and it’s easier than ever. All of the vintage decor you know—and love—from your childhood is making a comeback, and designers are doubling down on these items once more again today. 

1. Bubble Lights

Bubble lights always inspire feelings of Christmas past, and your grandparents probably had them on their trees because it reminded them of their childhoods. Bubble lights became popular in the late 1940s and early 1950s and were the go-to choice before “fairy” lights became popular after the 1970s. Well, they’re now experiencing a comeback, and I can see why. They’re colorful, fun, and mesmerizing to look at once they’ve heated up and start to bubble.

Buy: 6 Ft. Bubble Lights, $34.99 from The Home Depot

Credit: Crate&Barrel

2. Ceramic Christmas Trees With Lights

This kitschy keepsake had its heyday in the 1960s and 1970s and decorated just about every dining table in America. If you don’t have the authentic one that grandma painted in her ceramics class, not to worry. You can find modern reinterpretations in stores like Crate&Barrel or stick to the old school aesthetic by picking up Target’s figurine.

Buy: Mini Vintage Ceramic Tree, $9.95 from Crate&Barrel

Credit: Target

3. Tinsel

Tinsel never really went out of fashion, especially if it was used in moderation. A garland is the easiest way to bring it into your home though, in my opinion. It just feels fancy and festive, whether you decide to drape it around a doorway or over the mantel.

Buy: 15ft Soft & Silky Christmas Garland Silver, $4.00 from Target

Credit: Etsy

4. Sweater Wreaths

It’s officially sweater weather! Maybe your grandparents used to (or still do) mark the fall to winter transition with a chunky wool, cable knit, or fair isle “sweater” for their front door in the form of a wreath. The handmade look is back, and this kind of cozy wintry wreath can stay up all season long.

Buy: Cozy Wool Wreath, Starting at $35.00 for a 14-inch Wreath from Etsy

5. Pixie Elves

Nowadays they’re known as the mischievous “Elf on a Shelf,” but prior to that Christmas tradition taking households by storm, these little felt dolls were known as pixie elves. They became popular in the ‘40s and ‘50s, and their grinning faces decorated mantels and staircase bannisters from coast to coast. I say bring them back! It’ll make today’s “Elf on the Shelf” that much more difficult for your littles to spot.

Buy: Large Pixie Elf, $13.31 from The Vermont Country Store

Credit: Target

6. Driedels

Dreidels never went out of style either, but the simple wooden spinning tops you might remember from your grandparents’ and parents’ homes are even more colorful, modern, and larger than life these days. Such a unique shape stands out in decor, and that’s why you can find things like dreidel pillows and garlands to deck your halls with in a bunch of stores now.

Buy: Threshold Decorative Hanukkah Dreidel Accent Throw Pillow Blue, $20.00 from Target

7. Retro Reindeer Figurines

These jaunty reindeer have always reminded me of drinking hot chocolate on a brown velvet couch and watching a TV set that sat in front of a window covered in balloon valances. Bring back those cozy childhood feelings by getting a hand painted ceramic reindeer of your own, complete with a glowing wreath powered by LED lights.

Buy: Ceramic Reindeer, $14.99 from Saks Off Fifth

Credit: CB2

8. Nutcrackers

Did your grandparents have a whole defensive line of nutcrackers by the fireplace? Did you get shooed away from the room if you tried to actually crack a nut with one of them? Just me? Bring that vintage vibe into your own house with a modern take on this classic holiday staple, like this large, statement acrylic design from CB2 or this pastel one from Target. Plus, now you’re old enough to crack all the nuts you want without anyone scolding you!

Buy: Acrylic Nutcrackers, $149.00 from CB2

Credit: Wayfair

9. Retro Red Car Decor 

Fans of farmhouse design probably already have one of these retro red cars on their side table or sideboard, but this motif has come back in a major way this year. Everyone from Target to Wayfair is selling these small wagons and not just as figurines. You can even find sheet sets stamped with these festive red cars, and they’ll certainly bring a little Christmas charm to a bedroom on the cheap.

Buy: Printed Cotton Blend Sheet Set, Starting at $39.99 for a Twin Size from Wayfair

Credit: Crate&Barrel

10. Christmas Village Houses

If, like my grandma, your grandma was a hobbyist, then her shelves were probably transformed into a charming, snow-covered porcelain and ceramic village come December. It felt magical resting my chin on the bottom shelf and looking into all the cottage windows, imagining what went on there once I went to bed. You can bring that kind of wonder back into your adult life by jumping onto the Christmas village bandwagon that picked up speed over these last few years. If you’re more of a minimalist, places like Crate&Barrel have more modern versions, and Target’s Dollar Spot section in store has a bunch of really affordable designs like this, too.

Buy: Ceramic Houses, $84.75 for a Set of 5 from Crate&Barrel

Credit: Pottery Barn

11. Mercury Glass Ornaments with Indentions

Indented bauble ornaments first came about during the Victorian era, and their glass indents reflected the candlelight around Christmas trees. They experienced a comeback in the 1950s, which is probably why your grandparents continued to decorate with them. It probably reminded them of their childhoods. You can find modern versions of these baubles in just about every store, including Target and Pottery Barn.

Buy: Mercury Glass Mixed Vintage Ornaments, $39.50 $37.50 for a Set of 12 from Pottery Barn

Credit: Pottery Barn

12. Display Plates

As a teen, you might have wondered why your grandma owned plates that you couldn’t eat off of that stayed locked behind a case. As an adult, you finally get it. It might be irrational, but these Hanukkah plates are so pretty that you just can’t help getting them and maybe worry a little bit about keeping their pretty patterns pristine. I won’t tell if you want to eat your latkes on them though!

Buy: Hanukkah Medallion Salad Plate, $59.50 $47.50 each from Pottery Barn

13. Kissing Balls

Ensure you get a sufficient amount of kisses at home this holiday season by pinning an old school kissing ball over the doorway you pass through the most. It’s been a rough year—you deserve all the smooches.

Buy: Holly Kissing Ball, $49.95 from Williams-Sonoma

14. Starburst Clip-Ons

There was nothing like lying under my grandparents’ Christmas tree and watching the starburst tips of the boughs slowly blink their different colors. Recreate that same look with the help of one of these starburst clip-on toppers, which add a kitschy, cosmic look to the crown of your tree.

Buy: LED Lighted Starburst Clip On Christmas Decorations, Starting at $55.00 from The Jolly Christmas Shop

15. Faux Fur and Shag

Lap blankets are back in a big way, as many of us attempt to make the outdoor living season last just a little longer this year. If your grandparents had special winter throws or afghans, you’re not alone, and they were certainly onto something. You can’t get much cozier than a faux fur lap blanket, and these luxe textiles are the perfect thing to toss over a chair, sofa, or bed to give it an instant holiday makeover.

Buy: Sable Brown Faux Fur Lap Blanket, $150.00 from Pretty Rugged